MALACAÑANG is looking at placing the entire archipelago under modified community quarantine next month, says presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
In an announcement aired over the state-run television station PTV-4, Roque cited the position of local chief executives and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases as the compelling reason for him to believe that President Rodrigo Duterte would approve such a call.
“Nagkasundo na rin po ang mga alkalde at ang IATF na mag-MGCQ by March 1 kaya baka sumang-ayon na rin ang ating Presidente,” Roque said on state-run PTV-4.
IAFT is the government’s policy-making body in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aside from the mayors, the 81 governors belonging to the League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) have also expressed support to calls placing the entire country under MGCQ in March provided that governors are authorized to impose lockdowns or change their quarantine status if the need arises.
In effect, the IATF amended the Omnibus Guidelines on mass gatherings under GCQ after the voting of the Metro Manila mayors favoring MGCQ.
Aside from eased restrictions on mass gatherings, the IATF also mandated banks and financial institutions to come up with ways, other than face-to-face transactions, for elders to be able to get their pensions.
Eased restrictions on mass gathering however do not mean expanding the age bracket of those who are allowed to go out, added Roque.
“Hindi pa po covered yung mga 5 to 75 [age bracket]. Pero ang [IATF] Resolution na ‘yun eh para maging uniform lang kung ano ‘yung industriyang bukas dahil alam natin at inaasahan natin na mag MGCQ na ang Metro Manila at ang buong Pilipinas,” Roque said.
“Ibig sabihin aalisin na natin yung mga special na mga rules para sa Metro Manila at mga ibang lugar na GCQ. Isahang rules na lang ngayon. Kung ano ang pinapayagang magbukas sa MGCQ, eh siyempre ‘yan na po yung pupuwedeng magbukas, kasama po diyan yung religious gatherings at 50%, yung mga sinehan at subject dun sa capacity na sasabihin ng ating mga lokal na pamahalaan, yung mga parks, amusement parks,” he added.
Roque said that the President is expected to make a decision by February 22, but he will make the announcement of a possible transition to eased quarantine protocol before the end of February.
Interestingly, the World Health Organization is not amenable to the idea of relaxing restrictions in the country even as the international group allayed fears of a likely upsurge in COVID-19 cases with the UK variant.
The country has yet to start mass vaccination in the country as vaccines have yet to arrive on Philippine shores – that is on top of the admission of vaccine czar Carlito Galvez that the government has not yet signed any procurement deal with the biopharmaceutical firms behind the development, manufacture and sale of the COVID-19 vaccines.